Since lattes and cappuccinos are the most ordered coffee drinks in the UK, now is the perfect time to learn how these drinks differ from each other and how that affects your drinking experience.
Once you know your lattes from your cappuccinos, you can order with confidence at the coffee shop or have a go at making one of these delicious drinks at home instead.
The biggest difference between lattes and cappuccinos is the milk-to-coffee ratio. A cappuccino is served in a smaller cup. It is stronger than a latte and has thick frothy foam. On the other hand, a latte is served in a taller cup. It is also milkier and smoother.
- Both lattes and cappuccinos are prepared using milk and espresso shots, but that’s where the similarities end.
- Cappuccinos have a higher coffee to milk ratio. They are usually served in shorter cups mixed with steamed milk and topped with a thick layer of airy, foamed milk.
- Lattes have a lower coffee to milk ratio. They are usually served in taller cups, mixed with steamed milk and topped with a thin layer of airy, foamed milk.
This article dives deeper into the differences between lattes and cappuccinos, the origin of these two drinks, and how you can go about making them at home.
So get comfy, and get ready to become coffee smart.
The cappuccino is made in a short, wide cup in order to create a stronger espresso taste and maintain a thick consistency on top.
The drink consists of three equal parts: espresso shot, thick foamed milk, and a layer of air-thick frothy milk that sits on top. The varying consistencies form three distinct layers.
Because these segments are smaller, more even weighted and they don’t blend into one overall consistency, the coffee taste is much more potent than a latte.
These consistencies give cappuccinos a strong taste and varied texture. And the thick froth topping allows you to enjoy the hot drink without scalding your tongue.
If you love a good old milky drink with a subtle coffee taste, then a latte should be your go-to. Served in a taller cup, lattes have a high amount of milk.
On average, the coffee to milk ratio is ⅓ espresso and ⅔ steamed milk. They are topped with a thin layer of silky foam. The espresso and steamed milk are stirred together rather than allowed to sit in distinct layers.
Compared to cappuccinos, lattes taste significantly weaker and creamier. A latte’s foam is also velvetier than the thick airy froth on a cappuccino.
Overall, lattes are milk-heavy rather than coffee-heavy and have smooth and silky texture.
Learn the Difference Between Lattes and Cappuccinos
The cappuccino is usually served in a 6 oz cup with ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk, and ⅓ milk foam.
A latte is generally served in an 8-10 oz cup with a ⅓ espresso and ⅔ steamed milk ratio.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cappuccino—without added sugar—contains 64.8 calories.
While an average latte—without added sugar—contains 103 calories. The lattes’ higher milk content naturally increases the amount of calories it contains.
Find out more about the number of calories in other coffee drinks too!
Both of these drinks are believed to have originated in Italy.
While there were variants throughout the world, the cappuccino we’ve come to know today was first documented in Northern Italy in the 1930s.
The cappuccino apparently got its name from the Capuchin friars, whose robes had a hue similar to that of an espresso mixed with frothed milk.
But the latte’s exact origins are somewhat obscure. Many believe that it originated in Italy, but the word ‘latte’ means ‘milk’ in Italian, so there’s no mention of coffee being present. “Latte” first appeared in English in 1867 when William Dean Howells published his essay “Italian Journeys”.
And while there have been variations of it around Europe, the commercialised latte drink that we know in our coffee houses today was thought to have been founded in Seattle, America, around the 1980s.
Lino Meiorin claims he invented the drink in his Californian cafe in the 1950s.
And many others also claim to have invented the latte. But in truth, creating a latte mainly involves adding milk to coffee. So it is possible that the latte was “invented” by different people simultaneously.
But given Seattle’s long-established identity as being America’s ‘capital for coffee,’ it is highly likely that Seattle is where the latte was truly commercialised.
Rich in taste and bursting with wonderful frothiness, it’s no wonder the cappuccino has been a firm crowd-pleaser for a long time.
It’s so popular, in fact, that the drink has been adapted for dogs and babies. And it even has a day dedicated to celebrating it every 8th of November on National Cappuccino Day!
So if you like your coffee a little punchier and sharper rather than milky, a cappuccino is definitely your kind of drink. But until then, rather than standing in the queue at the coffee shop, why not make the perfect cappuccino in the comfort of your own home?
Step 1: Prepare the espresso shot in your portafilter and set it to one side.
Tip: Add a pinch of salt into the ground coffee within your portafilter. Salt has been scientifically proven to neutralise bitterness more than sugar.
Step 2: Pour the milk into the jug and place it under the steamer.
Position the wand should be near the side of the jug, just below the surface of the milk, so that it creates a vortex in the centre.
Step 3: We want more air in the milk to create thick froth rather than a smooth, silky foam.
To add more air, bring the tip closer to the surface and once it’s bubbled, put your wand deeper into the milk again.
When it reaches 55–65°C (139–149°F), turn it off to prevent burning.
Step 4: Tap and swirl your milk on a countertop to solidify the foam before placing it to one side. Brew your espresso shot and allow it to pour directly into the cappuccino cup.
Step 5: Pour your milk into the cup.
Allow the foam to fall into the centre first before continuing in a circular motion out toward the rim. If you do have steamed runnier milk, try holding it back with a spoon to allow the frothy foam to fall instead.
Tip: Serve with a half teaspoon of chocolate powder sprinkled on top to get the perfect combination of sweetness and nuttiness.
The latte is officially the UK’s most popular drink, so if your preference is leaning towards this milky delight, you’re not alone.
Let’s dive straight into making the perfect latte!
Instructions for Brewing Your Latte
Step 1: Measure the coffee you will need for your espresso shot and set it aside without brewing it.
It’s better to brew your espresso shot after the milk is ready because when coffee is left out in the air for too long, it turns sour.
Step 2: Pour the milk into the jug and place it under the steamer.
Step 3: Place the steam wand near the sides of the jug just below the surface of the milk so that it creates a swirling vortex in the centre.
Step 4: Aim to create a velvety microfoam rather than a froth. The milk should have a smooth velvet texture with a silky shine on top.
Once the milk reaches 60–65°C (140–145°F), turn off your steam wand to prevent burning.
Tap your milk jug on a countertop and swirl it to remove any large air bubbles in order to create a more smooth texture.
Step 5: Brew your espresso and transfer it to the cup or glass you will be using to drink.
Step 6: Pour the milk over the espresso shot making sure to keep the thicker milk back and allowing the runnier milk to pour first.
Once the milk is near the top of the glass, pour the heavier milk to create a silky foam head.
Tip: Serve after adding two drops of syrup. Vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut syrup are the most popular and the most complementary.
Whether you’re facing an impatient barista in the coffee shop or DIY-ing it at home, you now have complete confidence in knowing your lattes from your cappuccinos.
Be sure to check out our guide to the different types of coffee to explore new flavours and other coffee drinks you’ll love!